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5 Tips for Talking With a Loved One That’s Terminally Ill

Do you have a friend of a family member that is terminally ill? Don't miss these 5 tips on how to talk about it.
5 Tips for Talking With a Loved One That’s Terminally Ill

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When a friend or family member gets diagnosed with a terminal illness it’s hard to process. It can seem like the person has essentially been given a death note and that the clock is ticking. It’s a situation that’s loaded with emotions, some of which you may not have ever experienced before.

As much as you want to be there for your loved one and there’s so much to say, it can be difficult to figure out how to communicate. Hopefully, these tips that we’ve learned along the way will help conversations come a little easier as you share this time together.

Let Them Take the Lead

If your loved one doesn’t feel like talking, don’t force it. They have a lot to deal with and may simply need some time to work it all out in their mind before talking to someone else about it. 

There are also people who would rather not make their illness the focus and would rather focus conversations on other topics. It may be that they don’t want to be treated any differently than normal or that they aren’t comfortable with receiving sympathy.

No matter what, let them direct the conversation even if that means hardly talking at all. 

Listen More Than You Talk

Right now, your ill loved one could feel like they have a limited amount of time to tell everyone they know what’s on their heart and mind. They’ve also got a lot to process and emotions to manage. Talking to someone is extremely therapeutic as long as the other person is a good listener.

Let your loved one do most of the talking and give them your full attention. Don’t pass any judgement or make your opinions known unless they ask. Your loved one should feel safe to say what they need to say and know that someone is listening. 

Avoid Cliches

We’ve all heard cliches like “everything happens for a reason” and “you can pull through this” but that’s not what terminally ill people want to hear. It can make them feel like the illness was from something they did or something that was deserved somehow. It can also come off as disingenuous and insensitive because it’s a cliche. 

Find a Good Time to Have Important Conversations

No one wants to talk about end-of-life planning, especially when they are terminally ill. It can make the diagnosis all too real, and it’s something many people aren’t ready to face.

Although it can be emotional and uncomfortable some important conversations need to happen. For example, you should discuss your loved one’s final wishes and where important documents are that may be needed. 

Give your loved one some time after receiving the diagnosis before trying to have these conversations. They need time to process the information before making any important decisions. It may also help to approach the conversation as a positive by focusing on the fact that these are matters that your loved one can control. 

Record Their Life Story

This is a time for your loved one to really reflect on their life and share their journey. Offering to record their life story can be a way of helping your loved one cope and feel a little bit easier since their story will be left behind. 

You can work with your loved one to write down their life story, video it or record it. Making a video will essentially give you the means to do all three, but some people aren’t comfortable on camera. Recording the audio as they tell you their life story is a good option when that’s the case.  

The team at Green Cremation Texas talks with families every day about end-of-life services, including advance planning. If you or a loved one would like to know more about our green cremation process we can be reached by phone, email or text 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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